Monday, June 14, 2021

Tribeca with Abe: Italian Studies

I’ve had the pleasure this year of screening a number of selections virtually from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, which runs June 9th-20th.

Italian Studies
Directed by Adam Leon
Spotlight Narrative – Screening Information

The idea of forgetting one’s identity is hard to imagine, because so much of who a person is ties in to the things they do. To remember how to eat or how to speak but not to know one’s name is a contradiction of sorts, yet memory loss and amnesia are often unpredictable and inconsistent. What someone in that situation may be drawn to do and how they hunt for information about who they are may have no relevance at all to their true identity and what they used to do for work or pleasure, but it often serves as the only data available to begin that search.

A woman (Vanessa Kirby), who later finds out that her name is Alina, wanders around New York City, unsure of who she is and trying to remember anything she can about herself. A chance run-in with a teenager named Simon (Simon Brickner) seeking someone to help him meet a credit card minimum to buy hot dogs leads her down a rabbit hole of discovery in which she shifts her quest for knowledge about herself to anything she can learn about him and the company he keeps. As she begins to gain a sense of who she is, her boldness and lack of certainty become distinctly incompatible for the people she encounters.

Just as Alina can’t quite tell how much of what she’s gleaning about herself is true, this film doesn’t distinguish between what actually happens to her and what she may be misremembering or imagining. That results in a somewhat chaotic, free-floating state, one that invites plenty of confusion which is never properly sorted and clarified. It enables Alina to become a more inherently interesting character, but even though she remains magnetic, the film around her feels disjointed and directionless, almost content to allow her to emerge with no better sense of herself.

Kirby has proven her ability to command films that aren’t as formidable as she is with last year’s “Pieces of a Woman” and “The World to Come.” The same is true here, and she makes the most of a character who feels thinly written in a way that isn’t just purposely done to make her more mysterious. Mystery isn’t enough to drive a story if it’s not headed anywhere, and though this film runs only seventy-nine short minutes, it feels like an aimless eternity. There are a handful of moments of intrigue, but the fact that they lead nowhere fulfilling is even more of a disappointment.


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